Buying Your First Gun: A Primer
By Anthony Yeary
Unless you already have something specific in mind, purchasing your first firearm may seem more difficult than it really is. Here is a brief order of operation to help you decide exactly what you want:
1. For what purpose are you buying the gun?
First, determine for what reason are you buying a gun. Is it for recreational purposes, self-defense, hunting, or for collectability purposes?
2. Do you want a handgun or long gun?
It’s a fairly easy question really. Once you consider buying a gun you probably already know the answer.
3. What size?
More of a question that pertains to handguns which basically come in four sizes: large hunting size, full size/service size, compact, and sub-compact.
4. What type or action? Revolver or pistol? Semi-auto, pump, or bolt?
If you choose a handgun, do you want a revolver or a pistol? If you choose a long gun, do you want a shot gun or a rifle? If a shotgun, do you want a break-open, pump-action, or a semi-automatic? If a rifle, do you want a bolt action, lever-action, or a semi-automatic?
5. What caliber?
If it’s for hunting purposes, choose your gun’s caliber appropriate to what animal you are hunting. For sporting purposes, anything is good, but you can’t go wrong with anything chambered in .22. For self-defense handguns, try to not go any softer than 9mm or .38 Special and try to not go higher than .45ACP, .40S&W, or .357 Magnum.
6. Finally, now is the time to choose the make and model.
This is another instance when you may already know what you want. Because brand loyalty can start a fight, I’ll just say that generally you get what you pay for and you can’t go wrong buying American or European. Either way, this list should help you decide, or make matters worse by helping you to see that there is more than one gun out there that you want to blow your cash on….
What do I do next?
So you finally went ahead and did it. You have saved your cash and made the move to purchasing your first firearm. Congratulations- you are actually exercising a civil right that most citizens of the world do not have. But now that you own a gun, will you actually take it to the range and have fun with it? Will you actually go hunting this season? Or will you actually attend training classes for self-defense reasons? Of course, many of you will simply put it away or put it on display and never touch it again. It happens. To those who own a store that deals in firearm accessories, listen up. If you’ve went ahead and made this leap, remember that with gun ownership comes many new responsibilities and MANY hidden costs! Here are just the broad strokes:
Upon purchasing your new firearm, the first question Clerks will (or at least should) ask is if you need ammo. For your first time, you likely will not know, but they will help you so ask all the questions you have while you are there. Most importantly, you will need the right caliber which is rollmarked on the side of the firearm. As to the type, you will likely want bulk ammo for target practice or training purposes. If the weapon was purchased with self-defense in mind, it is a good idea to consider buying a box of defensive rounds. Choosing ammo for hunting usage is a bit more complicated and you should do research beforehand to determine what is best for the animal you will be hunting. Bear in mind that as you stockpile ammunition, you will require a storage method. Military surplus ammo cans work just as good as modern plastic ones, but either way you go, you should pick up a moisture absorbing product to place in the can to protect your ammo from corrosion (silica gel packs for instance).
Cleaning Products and Lubricant
Cleaning products are as important as ammo because a gun will only perform at its best when it is properly cleaned and oiled. It will probably be easiest if you purchase a complete cleaning kit instead of putting one together from separate pieces. You can buy just a handgun or long gun kit if you don’t want all of the extra parts. As far as a cleaner goes, make sure it’s synthetic safe, if you require that, and choose your preferred type (it can be either aerosol or liquid).
If you bought a gun that did not come with a case, you might want to pick one up. Standing a rifle upright in the corner of a closet or leaving a handgun wrapped in a rag in a drawer is not the best way to protect them from dust, dirt, and damage. I prefer soft cases because they’re more versatile, but if the gun needs better protection (or if you’re transporting it through the airlines) choose a hard case instead. If you have kids or irresponsible adults in the house, you may want to invest in a small gun safe to keep it secure.
Holster, Sling, Ammo Carrier
If you purchase a handgun, you will eventually want to buy a holster. This is a no-brainer if you intend on carrying it for self-protection, but even if you don’t, you will still find it useful from time to time. If you buy a long gun, you really should buy a decent quality sling. A sling gives you better control over the weapon, whether it’s a defensive situation, or just simply carrying it around. Ammunition carriers like a magazine or speedloader pouch make things more convenient too.
There are thousands of different accessories that are going to catch your eye in gun, outdoor, and surplus stores. With many of these things, you should probably wait a bit before you buy them. A great first accessory to buy is training rounds like Snap Caps. Snap Caps will give you a safe way to practice loading your weapon, as well as protect the firing pin while doing dry fire practice. When it comes to other accessories, like new grips or an optics setup, you might want to hold off at first; at least until you know whether you will actually need these things or not.
If you have never owned a gun before, get ready for a torrent of new information to flood your way. Naturally, you will turn to the Internet to get your answers, but you will also look for books for more reliable information on the subject. There are a ton of books out there, whether it’s for hunting, self-defense, or even firearm history. For the most reliable, and up-to-date information, you may also consider taking classes from NRA certified instructors.
Buying your first gun is like buying your first car. It is exciting and carries a lot of personal liberty with it. Likely, you will not even consider all of the other related things you will want to put with it. But when it’s yours and in your hand, “What else can I get?” will be your next thought. Fortunately, your local gun, surplus, and tactical stores will be able to hook you up with almost anything you could want or need. Just try to not get too carried away- money goes quickly when you move too fast!